NFL AM: Julius Thomas Fractures Finger in Debut with Jacksonville Jaguars


Another Tough Break for Jacksonville

Julius Thomas, Jacksonville’s prized offseason acquisition, fractured his finger in his debut with the team. The injury occured during the first quarter and took away the player who was supposed to serve as the security blanket for second-year QB Blake Bortles.

Thomas is the highest paid tight end in the NFL after signing a five-year, $46 million deal with the Jaguars back in March.

“The good news is that it’s quick healing,” said head coach Gus Bradley. “The bad news is that he is going to be out probably the rest of the preseason. But hopefully, if everything works alright, he’ll be back ready for the first game.”

It’s fortunate Thomas will be back for the season opener against the Panthers, but this is just another frustrating blow for a franchise that seems snake-bitten. The team already lost No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler to a season-ending ACL injury on the first day of rookie camp back in May. If Thomas misses any regular season games, it would leave the Jaguars without their top offseason pickups on both sides of the ball.

For those Jaguars fans seeking a silver-lining: Bortles still performed well without his go-to target. His abbreviated appearance saw him go 11-of-15 for 188 yards, averaging nearly eight yards per attempt.

“I think it was a tribute to the guys up front and to the guys running routes,” Bortles said. “We had a ton of guys get catches and guys worked their tails off to get open. I think we had great protection up front, so I think it was a good first quarter.”

Raiders Romp Rams in Battle of L.A. Hopefuls

The Rams and Raiders are engaged in a heated battle, but it had nothing to do with Friday’s preseason game in Oakland. Both franchises are attempting to battle their way back to the lucrative Los Angeles market, while the possibility remains the Raiders could join the Rams as a second tenant in Inglewood. But before they become neighbors, these two teams had a contest to get out of the way.

While the Rams are ahead in the race to La La Land, the Raiders finished ahead on Friday’s scoreboard. Oakland delivered an emphatic 18-3 victory, led by the exciting tandem of Derek Carr and rookie first-round pick Amari Cooper. The duo hooked up three times on the game’s opening drive, resulting in a Raiders field goal, and gave Oakland fans reason to think the team’s last season in the Bay Area may be a successful one.

If nothing else, the Raiders appear to have found a receiver who can top the 1,000-yard barrier, something that has not been done in Oakland since Randy Moss did it 10 years ago.

The Rams, meanwhile, were sloppy from start to finish. Particularily concerning were all the penalties, with St. Louis getting flagged six times for 50 yards in the first half alone.

“In the preseason, you have to correct mistakes and learn from them,” said head coach Jeff Fisher.

Mariota Makes Titans Debut

The Titans knew they would have to be patient with No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota, who is making the leap from Oregon’s spread attack to Tennessee’s pro-style offense. The first reminder of the challenge ahead of Mariota came on Friday night in Atlanta, when his first drive ended in an interception and his second resulted in a fumble that was returned for a Falcons touchdown.

Mariota showed some fight as the game progressed, leading a second-quarter scoring drive that was capped off by a Dexter McCluster touchdown from six yards out, but the early hole was too much to overcome as Atlanta won its first game in the Dan Quinn era.

“We obviously had a tough start,” said head coach Ken Whisenhunt. “We can’t turn the ball over. It was disappointing, but I like the way they responded.”

The Falcons, despite coming off a season in which they won just one game outside the NFC South, are clearly the team closer to contention. The Matt Ryan-Julio Jones connection was humming early, hooking up four times for 61 yards on the opening drive, including a 13-yard scoring strike to spot the Falcons a lead they would never relinquish.

“He’s a beast and I’m lucky to call him a teammate,” said Ryan of Jones.

Jones is still awaiting a new contract, as is fellow 2011 draftee A.J. Green. The Cincinnati superstar was also in action Friday night as his Bengals throttled the Giants, 23-10. Andy Dalton completed all three of his passes (including one to Green for 16 yards), capping things off with a scoring strike to Mohamed Sanu from three yards out.

Cincinnati’s entire opening drive took less than three minutes; the Bengals starters watched the rest of the rout from the sidelines.

Michael Sam Walks Away

Michael Sam is stepping away from the Montreal Alouttes for personal reasons … yes, again.

Sam released a statement on Twitter citing concerns about his mental state in justifying his decision.

“The last 12 months have been very difficult for me, to the point where I became concerned with my mental health,” he said. “Because of this I am going to step away from the game at this time. I thank the Alouttes for the opportunity and hope to be back on the field soon. Thank you for all your understanding and support.”

If Sam is suffering from depression or having suicidal thoughts, then stepping away is the right thing to do. This is still a bad look for the Alouttes, though, who signed Sam despite the fact his potential distractions threatened to outweigh his on-field productivity.

After sitting out Montreal’s first five games during another personal absence, Sam failed to record a tackle during his debut with the team on Aug. 7.

The hope was that Sam would light things up in the CFL and follow in the footsteps of Cameron Wake, who developed his pass-rushing skills north of the border before coming down to dominate for the Dolphins. Instead, Sam has done nothing but fuel his critics who insist there are not enough hits to justify the hype.

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About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.